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More than a year ago, over Memorial Day weekend, I took a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a wedding. Besides a day trip to Ensenada with Carnival Cruise Lines, this was my first real visit to the country, and my feelings were mixed. While Mexico is a beautiful place, the stories I had heard and news articles I had read told me to travel with caution.

My boyfriend and I traveled with another couple who also live in L.A., arriving at the Cancun airport and taking a shuttle (reserved through our hotel) to the wedding destination. That hour drive to the resort may have been one of the longest of my life, with visions of worst-case scenarios running through my head, but we made it to the hotel safe and sound.

playa-del-carmen-1As a half-joke during our long day of traveling, we imagined being greeted at the hotel entrance with umbrella-adorned tropical drinks. Much to our surprise—and delight—the front desk agent asked for our drink orders within five minutes of arrival. They may have been umbrella-less, but those daiquiris were more than welcomed. It meant our vacation had begun!

What happened next were three of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had. All meals and drinks were included in the resort price, a wonderful amenity that I wish I could incorporate into my daily life. Can you imagine paying a flat rate each month to eat wherever and whenever you want? It would be an amazing, albeit completely implausible, concept. This all-you-can-eat format allowed for two of my favorite parts of the trip: morning brunch ordered through room service and eaten on our hotel room patio, and late night snacks at a 24-hour lounge, which came complete with pool tables and a nacho bar.

playa-del-carmen-2I think that may have been the basis of my relaxed state, being completely worry-free when it came to money. It was incredibly difficult to re-enter reality and leave that lovely, pre-paid world behind.

Of course, it also didn’t hurt that there was hot tub in the middle of our hotel room. And two pools just outside surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs. And a sandy beach met by a clear blue ocean that provided not only an incredible view, but water so much warmer than the often-freezing Pacific I am accustomed to.

Another highlight of the trip was the level of service we experienced while at the resort. We dined at one restaurant, set in a newer part of the property, that was not as visible to hotel guests and therefore practically empty. Our table of six consisted of a few old friends who hadn’t been able to spend much time together recently so the conversation was jovial and unending. Our boisterous demeanor did not deter our fabulous server, who was attentive, professional and made every effort to enhance our dining experience.

With only our table and another filled in the entire restaurant that evening, he could have taken the easy way out and barely paid us any attention. Instead, he performed his responsibilities at the highest level of service. We were incredibly appreciative of his hard work and made sure to give him praise on the “How Was Your Stay Card” handed to us at check out, as well as recommend the restaurant to our other friends who were there for the wedding party.

playa-del-carmen-3The wedding itself was a beautiful event. The ceremony was set in a gazebo with the beach as a backdrop, and the reception was held right on the sand, our table just feet away from the breaking waves. As someone who was unsure about destination weddings before, my experience in Playa del Carmen changed my mind. I still give thanks to the happy couple for giving me a reason to visit such a picture-perfect place.

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